Open Minds Technology Institute Conference 2014

2014 sees the tenth anniversary of the OPEN MINDS Technology and Informatics Institute conference, which this year focuses on the development of strategies to help health providers gain the most from current and upcoming technologies in the health and human service arenas.

The two main areas of focus this year are Service Delivery and Operations Management. The changes in service delivery methods, organizational administration, and management of daily operations which have come about during the past ten years due to the rapid pace of technological innovation have been game-changing. Where does this leave modern healthcare providers? And what of the future? These questions and many more will be answered by more than twenty five speakers and industry experts.

What is Strategic Risk?

Security is a minefield, and few places hold more danger of fatal misstep than the fields of electronic health records, interoperability, Meaningful Use, and patient engagement.

Ever larger security breaches are announced every day. I personally fear the ones which remain unannounced. The ones as yet undiscovered. Why? Because nobody gets up to close a door if they think it is closed. And that leads neatly away from the subject of security, to the subject of Strategic Risk.

It is a requirement for Meaningful Use and HIPAA that organizations create a written plan for worst-case scenarios. In some high-visibility headlines this has not been done and organizations have been penalized heavily. But that really is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Security is a moving target. Breaches will always occur. Taking that as a starting point, everything becomes so much clearer. The thing to remember is this: If it can happen, there is a good chance that it will. If a door is open, someone will eventually walk through it. So, plan for it.

At the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) conference in San Diego, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) released some interesting statistics.

Up to July 2014 the Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs have jointly paid out $24.87 billion, with roughly $16 billion going to Medicare and $8 billion for Medicaid.

CMS says that 92% of hospitals have received incentive payments. Of the possible eligible professionals (EP) that could have registered, 90% are shown to have done so. That is quite a remarkable adoption rate.

Specify, For Effective Billing and Reimbursement

Until the move to ICD-10 is globally adopted, many physicians prefer to continue using the ICD-9 coding system.

Section I.B.6. of the ICD-9 manual advises that, "Codes that describe symptoms and signs, as opposed to diagnoses, are acceptable for reporting purposes when a related definitive diagnosis has not been established (confirmed) by the provider."

The key word is "definitive". In practice this means that unconfirmed diagnoses are best avoided as they may later incur denials and / or delays to reimbursement. The presence of doubt is sufficient to introduce delay.

Lifestyle Intervention Conference 2014

We are pleased to announce that Sigmund Software is a sponsor of the 2014 Lifestyle Intervention Conference. We will be on site and available to answer any questions and talk with you. Please feel free to drop on by Booth #410, where you can also enter our prize draw for a chance to win one of three Android smart watches.

During the 3-day event professionals will gather from across the nation to gain knowledge and build a network of resources to serve those struggling with addiction. Want to know more? Then read on...

Breaches, Breaches, and More Breaches

Is there a day that goes by where the news headlines do not scream about yet another security breach?

From large health organizations, to retail outlet chains, to Apple, the headlines are relentless. The numbers thrown around are staggering. Last year $85 billion with a 'B' was fraudulently obtained through medical ID theft alone. As we have discussed in earlier articles, industry watchdogs expect 2015 to be the year of the hacker. I dread to think what number I will be quoting then.

Enough. I have hammered on in these pages time and again about security risks and breaches and ways to not get caught out. Frankly, at this point I think everyone out there gets it: The Internet is inherently insecure. The only way to remain secure is to disconnect, to step away from the Internet. Unplug your modems and routers. Tear out your cables and turn off your Wi-Fi. Of course, nobody is going to do that.

And yet we are aiming for National health system interoperability. I praise the goal and admire the work done to date, but in the dark recesses of my mind I wonder if such a goal is going to be actually possible.

Blue Button Initiative Gains Momentum

The Blue Button initiative is a collaboration between government and private sector organizations that aims to connect consumers and patients securely and easily to their own health records. It is a model for interoperability, and it is gaining momentum.

The Blue Button symbol itself was first used by the Department for Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense in 2010 on their patient portals. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took over and ran with the Blue Button initiative in 2012, and since then has worked with other government departments including the White House, VA, DoD and the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid to grow the Blue Button brand and increase public awareness of the initiative.

As part of this expansion more than 500 private sector organizations have been brought on board and pledged support. Notable names on this long list include Microsoft, Aetna, United, Walgreens, CVS, Quest, the Mayo Clinic, AARP and the American Cancer Society.

But what exactly is the Blue Button initiative?

California Leads The Way In Interoperability

A new initiative by leading California insurers Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California aims to connect almost 9 million patient records in an online system, making health information available on demand by any healthcare provider in California. The two insurers are committing $80 million into seed funding for the Cal Index program, which should launch by end of 2014.

The Cal Index will be a long-term project which will be refined over the next few years. The Index should allow nearly 25% of Californians, healthcare providers, hospitals and emergency rooms easy accessibility to medical records with a few key strokes. The potential is clearly huge - both for success and failure.

ONC Dismisses JASON Report Findings

In April 2014 an independent report commissioned by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) determined that a major brake on successful growth of the national health data infrastructure was the overall lack of interoperability. In fact they found that interoperability was by far the most difficult obstacle needing to be overcome.

The JASON group was formed from independent government science and technology advisers, tasked with identifying current infrastructure challenges. The group worked closely with the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), which mitigated some of the JASON report yesterday by refuting and dismissing many of the findings contained in the report.

Cybersecurity and Two-Factor Authentication

Two weeks ago I wrote of the need for improved cybersecurity in the healthcare arena, making the case for implementing two-factor authentication across the industry. One week ago, Apple hit the headlines when personal photos of celebrities were leaked on to the Internet due to an avoidable security breach.

Avoidable, that is, if two-factor authentication had been in use.

NIST Announces Cybersecurity Framework RFI

Six months ago the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued its cybersecurity framework. This week, NIST issued a Request for Information (RFI) to gather feedback from stakeholders on their understanding of the cybersecurity framework, and their initial experiences of using the guidelines it contains.

One of the reasons for this RFI is that is has emerged that many stakeholders mistakenly believe that the cybersecurity framework issued by NIST was a rule book which must be followed to the letter. This is not the case.

Cornerstone of Recovery Celebrates 25 Years

Cornerstone of Recovery this week celebrates 25 years of operation. Sigmund Software is proud to have been their EHR vendor of choice for several years now. We work well together, and as they celebrate we look forward to working with them for the next 25 years.

Cornerstone of Recovery is an alcohol and drug addiction treatment facility based in Louisville, Tennessee. It is a facility that generates results. It is also a facility that generates strong ties with those that pass through its doors. The annual Alumni Weekend draws hundreds of ex-residents back to Blount County every year for a three-day celebration of sobriety and success.

POS Security Breach Highlights Need for Improved Cybersecurity

Supervalu stores in 25 states across America may have been compromised by a breach of the POS systems in around 200 of the U.S. supermarket chain's outlets, and rumors are circulating that the breach extends into another 1000 stores.

Reminiscent of the recent Target breach, the potential exists for great damage to the franchise and the customer base. If this reported breach is even half as extensive as reported, the bad guys have a lot of credit card data to dig around in. Not good.

This alleged breach highlights again the need for improved security procedures, everywhere. Nowhere more so than healthcare.

The Chip-and-Pin (CAP) technology used on credit cards in many countries around the world is only now beginning to be introduced to the U.S.

With CAP, anyone wishing to make a purchase must input a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) in addition to presenting their card at the register. If they fail to input the correct PIN within three attempts, the transaction is declined. If this has happened multiple times, a message can even be displayed on the register for the cashier to retain or destroy the card. A lost or stolen credit card is no longer a problem. Useful, yes?

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